Herds­men / farmers clashes: Prob­lems and so­lu­tions

The Guardian (Nigeria) - - OPINION - By Akinkuolie Rasheed

THE clashes be­tween herds­men and farmers in some states in Nige­ria, es­pe­cially in Benue, Taraba and Kaduna states should not be al­lowed to gen­er­ate fur­ther by in­cite­ment and in­tem­per­ate state­ments. The com­mit­tee set up by the govern­ment to solve this prob­lem must come out with a holis­tic so­lu­tion which will deal with the prob­lems of en­croach­ment into farm­lands, in­cite­ment and cred­i­ble plans to in­te­grate the herds­men fully into the Nige­rian so­ci­ety. The graz­ing of an­i­mals on cat­tle trails in the 21st cen­tury is to say the least an­ti­quated. The fo­cus should there­fore be on mod­erni­sa­tion of cat­tle rear­ing which will max­i­mize the ben­e­fits therein in terms of job cre­ation, food se­cu­rity, and even­tu­ally end the vex­a­tious farmers/ herds­men con­flicts. In­dia, China, USA, Pak­istan and coun­tries with large pop­u­la­tions de­pend on milk and dairy prod­ucts to fight hunger, mal­nu­tri­tion, un­em­ploy­ment and pro­mote so­cial har­mony.

In­dia is a good ex­am­ple with an an­nual pro­duc­tion of 163 mil­lion met­ric tonnes of milk which is about 10% of worlds out­put.

In In­dia, cat­tle are reared within the con­fines of vil­lage com­mu­ni­ties, and farmers co­op­er­a­tives, mainly for milk pro­duc­tion and rarely for the meat. The at­tach­ment to the cat­tle in In­dia is so strong that it is called mother, which in a sense is true be­cause the cow pro­vides food and nour­ish­ment for the coun­try’s huge pop­u­la­tion.

The Euro­pean dairy farm model is also within con­fined pad- docks which in most cases are not much big­ger than a foot­ball pitch. The an­i­mal fod­der is grown on lo­ca­tion or in other farms which spe­cial­ize in grow­ing hays, grains and other an­i­mal feeds.

The milk pro­duced in these farms are col­lected, pas­teur­ized and packed in lo­cal dairy plants for lo­cal and world­wide con­sump­tion as in­fant foods, cheese, yo­ghurt, but­ter and other dairy prod­ucts.

The av­er­age milk yield per cow in Europe is be­tween 40-50 liters per day as com­pared to the pal­try 1-2 liters yield of the Nige­rian cow due to poor feed­ing, poor health and stress on the graz­ing trails. The milk pro­duc­ing years of a cow is about 5-7 years, after which it is culled for the meat. The profit in the in­dus­try is de­rived mainly from the dairy prod­ucts which by some es­ti­mates could be in ex­cess of 15,000 usd per milk­ing cow per year. In Nige­ria, cat­tle is reared mainly for the beef and min­i­mally for the milk, which takes away the bulk of the profit in the busi­ness. The fo­cus should there­fore be on milk pro­duc­tion which would con­trib­ute sub­stan­tially to the na­tional econ­omy and at the same time stop the peren­nial con­flicts be­tween herds­men and farmers in the coun­try.

The es­tab­lish­ment of ranches and graz­ing lands may seem at­trac­tive and a sim­ple way out of the herds­men/ farmers clashes. The con­straints of land and land own­er­ship in tribal ar­eas is also a big chal­lenge. Ranches are es­tab­lished in coun­tries with huge pas­toral lands, like in the lush Pam­pas of Ar­gentina, grass lands, which alone cov­ers over 700,000 square kilo­me­ters of land mass or about 80% of Nige­ria’s en­tire terri- tory. It is the same with the Prairies of USA/ Canada and the mighty Eura­sia Steppes in Rus­sia, which is about 17 times the size of Nige­ria. The In­dian and Euro­pean mod­els are there­fore best suited for the Nige­rian sit­u­a­tion. Dairy farm­ing how­ever re­quires spe­cial skills and a cer­tain level of ed­u­ca­tion, which the itin­er­ant herds­men do not pos­sess for now. How­ever, their na­tive and rus­tic skills should be a use­ful as­set which would ac­cel­er­ate their in­te­gra­tion into mod­ern an­i­mal hus­bandry meth­ods. The ed­u­ca­tion of the no­madic herds­men should there­fore be given pri­or­ity as the first and most im­por­tant step in the con­ver­sion and in­te­gra­tion process.

The ex­ist­ing no­madic ed­u­ca­tional sys­tem is not good enough. It must be mod­ern­ized with added agri­cul­tural tech­ni­cal skills which would be use­ful in the field. The Fed­eral Govern­ment should take the lead in es­tab­lish­ing the pro­posed dairy plants in states which are ready to ac­cept them. The pri­vate sec­tor and for­eign in­vestors will there­after fol­low the foot­steps of the govern­ment and key into the pro­gramme. The ten­sion in the coun­try is now so high that graz­ing should be lim­ited to states which are more re­cep­tive to the Fu­lani peo­ple or are of pre­dom­i­nantly Fu­lani eth­nic group, such as Adamawa, Kebbi, Sokoto, Zam­fara, Bauchi and Ji­gawa states. The even­tual suc­cess of the ven­tures would at­tract more states and in­vestors to the project. For now, graz­ing trails should not be im­posed on states which are still hurt­ing from the clashes and those ad­verse to it. •Am­bas­sador ra she ed was di­rec­tor of trade and in­vest­ments, Min­istry of for­eign af­fairs.

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